Dear ReWorker: My Coworker Thinks He Is the Voice of HR
September 11, 2017
We are a small company. We have no HR department, but we do have a jerk. A jerk who is a director and has decided that he is the voice of HR. Nobody appointed him to this role.
He frequently dips snuff at his desk, which is a shared table with eight coworkers. He throws temper tantrums exactly like a three year old, ranting and cursing at employees and vendors alike. He's a serious liability to the team.
His behavior needs to be curtailed ASAP. He does not report to me, so my hands are tied. He is wise enough to change his tune when senior management is in the office. Do you have any helpful suggestions? If only we could hire an HR person!
Dear Had Enough,
While it's true that a great HR person—who can leap tall buildings with a single bound and enforce the dress code on the way up—could handle this guy pretty easily, that great HR person is pretty mythical. Someone who is good at bamboozling senior management is likely to be pretty talented at hiding his bad behavior from HR as well.
While you don't have an HR person, you do have yourself—and sometimes that is enough. Let's start with the snuff dipping. First, go to him privately and ask him to stop doing it at the table. If he refuses, every time after that, just say, "John, you need to do that outside. It's disruptive and unsanitary."
When he points out that it isn't cigarette smoke, and you shouldn't be offended by it, just calmly repeat that it isn't appropriate for the office setting. Your co-workers will likely join in. The fear people often face, when attempting to call out co-workers for inappropriate behavior is that the tables will be turned and they'll get in trouble for nagging—or worse, bullying. But if the behavior is truly inappropriate, your actions can be clearly explained to senior management as valid requests.
The temper tantrums should be reported to senior management. You're right—they are damaging, not only to employee morale but to your vendor relationships. So, first report the problem. Second, walk away when he starts his temper tantrums and ask your co-workers to come with you.
Big picture: Don't let a toxic employee ruin your job, but more importantly, don't let it ruin your business. Involve senior management if having a crucial conversation with the employee himself doesn't work. A healthy work environment should be one of their foremost concerns.